Soapbox: Carling Cup cop-out, then the trek to Swansea

Back from Brighton at 5pm today. Off to Swansea at 4am on Saturday, back with any luck by midnight. That is dedication, Mr Bruce, and Pete Sixsmith is far from alone in showing it, game after game. In return, last night at any rate, they were shortchanged …

I notice that M Salut is running a competition called “A Monday Lie In”.

Well, that’s what I did this morning at The Kings Hotel in Brighton (I recommend it – looks a good place to take another man’s wife to). Instead of a quick breakfast and a look for an internet café, I took my time over the scrambled eggs and smoked salmon before a leisurely stroll back to Brighton’s splendid Victorian railway station, and an easy trip back to the North East.

Had we won the game in a comfortable manner (or even an uncomfortable one) I would have written this much sooner. I could have praised Brighton for their new stadium (impressive), their real ale (Harvey’s) at the bars, the way they handled the large number of rail passengers at the end (exemplary) and then patronised them about the good football they played – good, but not quite good enough, Premier League experience etc. etc.

Instead, it’s another dismal defeat to write about. Our Premier League quality never once shone through and we were beaten by a side who are very much on the up and who are managed and coached by a man who has imagination, verve and flair.

Imagination, verve and flair are the complete antithesis of the way we played. Replace them with predictability, one-paced and dull and you have something which describes the new Sunderland team, three games into what could well be a very long and difficult season.

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The team selection was met by sharp intakes of breath and the shaking of heads. Sessegnon up front on his own and a midfield five to stifle a team just out of Division One and who had displayed defensive frailties in their previous home game against Blackpool.

It didn’t work. The ball was passed sideways and backwards but there was never a good enough ball put through to worry the Brighton defence. They had a flaky goalkeeper and a couple of youngsters in defence who were just finding their way in the game. We had experience in bucket loads and rarely threatened.

The longer it went on, the stronger Brighton got and the more predictable we became. Cattermole, Colback and Gardner are all similar players, so no variation there. Vaughan was looking for a forward to hit with his passes a la Campbell and Taylor-Fletcher, but there was nobody there, so, like the other three, he went sideways and backwards.

By the time we decided to introduce Wickham and Ji, the game was swinging towards Albion and they did nothing to change it. Both need to be introduced gradually and preferably when we have a commanding lead – should be around November then!!

Bruce cut a lonely figure stood with his head down and his hands in his pockets. This was his team, his players, his master plan. He has seen three decent halves from them and then two where all the confidence drained out of the players, almost as if they were saying to him “How the hell do we get a goal out of all this”?

How serious is this? It’s extremely worrying and for a man who has had 6 weeks to work with these players, the lack of a coherent attacking policy is, to put it mildly, not very good. Where is Plan B? Why is Plan A so limited? Why have the goalscoring and left back problems of last season not been addressed? Did he really think that he could get away with Gyan and two untested youngsters as his forwards?

What does Ellis Short do now? If the manager comes for more money to buy a forward does he give it to a man who, at this particular moment, is struggling to create a coherent team? And if he doesn’t, does he relieve him of his duties and bring in someone else, who may not fancy the players here and who wants his own brought in?

It could all look a lot better by the end of September and this may well be a mini-crisis. On the other hand, fail to take any points from Swansea, Chelsea and Stoke and we are in trouble.

But, to lose so limply to our local rivals and then go out of a competition that we had a chance to progress in, without even putting up a fight, does not auger well. Someone may well be polishing the pearl handled revolvers and quietly placing them in the library for Mr Bruce’s use.

12 thoughts on “Soapbox: Carling Cup cop-out, then the trek to Swansea”

  1. Martin – I agree and you make a good strong argument for SB, but as you imply half a season doesnt cut it. We turned on the charms with the big boys, but the lesser sides showed us up.

    I had a theory all the yo-yo years and it stood me in good stead. You lost the top seven games home and away against the Big boys, Won the bottom seven against lower end and draw the 6 home and aways in the middle and you stay up. Yes you win some and lose some. but you get the gyst. Now would appear to be the other way round. We only turn up against the Big Boys.

    With the cash available form Bent and Henderson we could have bought the 3 teams coming up. and with a guarentee they will scrap each week.

    I like yourself have supported in excess of 40 years, The shame is the Hope never fades.

    Come SB Prove me wrong

  2. Red Frog – I have watched Sunderland obsessively for 40 years. I have NEVER seen football played as skillfully and as slick as I witnessed in the first half of last season. And CSB – we were sitting comfortably in 6th, looking every bit as good as the position dictates – despite Bruces (now obvious) tactical failings.

    Why did we beat Chelsea 3-0 on their own turf with a wonderful performance and witness masterful tactics, and then have to see our team play a cup game with a midfielder as the only striker? I don’t know the answer to that.

    As for finally agreeing on something – I agree wiith every word of your post – and I did when I read it the first time!!

    We will struggle this year. It’s going to be painful to watch. But could we be wrong? By Xmas we might be toasting SB again like we were mid-way last season. He took a hammering towards the end, and I thought that was grossly unfair, because of the blatent bad luck he had with injuries. However – I always said that I would be as objective as possible so here it is. He has made an incredibly bad error of judgement in not buying two decent, proven strikers and a natural left sided player. This will cost him his job by Xmas. I would love to see MON get the job.

  3. I have been extremely lazy here and just posted what I wrote for another Salut! thread, but Martin plaes see what I wrote earlier, is this us finally agreeing on a point

    CSB says:

    August 24, 2011 at 11:57 am

    This season is still one of consolidation in the PL, we reached our target last season, a top ten place, in fact if not in spirit we hoped for. What we are now seeing is a manager who has been given money to spend in the summer trying to bind a squad together, but still displaying the same tactical failures as last season.

    SB was given a new contract on early season results and money to spend, to dispense of his services now would be a huge embarressment for the Club, but when is enough enough?

    None of the comments above are ‘knee jerk’ just a continuation of last seasons concerns regarding the direction of the Club. Even SB must now realise that he needs to start to pull things together or his position is perilous. We need three key signings. Give him the cash to get them and then give him to Christmas to pull things around. That in my opinion would be fair crack of the whip and if he fails to step up to the mark then its time for him go.

    Europe can wait till next season, but Mr Bruce the clock is ticking and we need to progress and not just have a repeat of last season.

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  4. Sorry Martin, ‘Bruce gave us the best football we have ever seen.’ How long have you been supporting?

    Reidies Maken and Summberbee Right side, Grey and Johnson Left, Quinn and Phillips attacking. play off against Charlton, 2-1 at Skunksville in the downpour. I could go on and further back

    Sorry but after 2 seasons of falling off after Christmas and the lackluster start to this. I like Bruce and as I said when he came. ‘He will always keep us in the Prem’. Top 10 tho???????? Time to move him on

    I think. O’Neil or Sparky as previously suggested would be idea.

  5. The thing that sickens me on here is I see alleged fans openly wanting Steve Bruce to fail. People like Bill, who have absolutely nothing constructive to say, and who take satisfaction from leaving one line sarcastic “bitches”. Even your ‘site friends’ must be a little underwhelmed by you at this time Bill.

    When Bruce first arrived he gave us the best football we’ve EVER seen at Sunderland, and he deserved his chance. I would still give him until Christmas, although he has somewhat destroyed my faith in him after failing to buy a proven striker and yet again we have no natural left sided player. I would take MON right now if we had the opportunity, but I think Niall will give him a couple of months.

    It’s also worth reminding you that it takes time for a relatively new squad to gel. The last 2 results have been gut-wrenching, but for now it is what it is. We have depth and potential, so let’s see what happens. WE NEED A STRIKER RIGHT NOW THOUGH!!

  6. Forget what I said on a recent post about Brucie. We needed a reaction to the 2nd half surrender to the Mags and failed dismally.
    We are extremely good at failing dismally. I get very frustrated at clubs where a knee-jerk change in management is called for following any run of two or more defeats – but it is too easy to see the usual pattern of glimpses of ‘what could be’ eclipsed by ‘what invariably is’ – a total failure to score.
    What is O’Neill (alleged Sunderland fan) doing now? I have lost track of him and believe his contract wrangle with Villa had been resolved. I believe he would bring a much needed intelligent, professional intensity and passion to the Club.
    I really didn’t want to write this, but can’t face yet another season of disappointment, especially after a wildly flattering 10th place season. I’m getting too old for this – as many of us are.

  7. One of the problems that we have as supporters of our club is this. We are not anywhere near as demanding as we ought to be. That’s not to say of course that we should emulate that lot up the road in terms of protests. I doubt whether we could match the illiteracy of the “boycouott” banners etc anyway.

    The problem is that we do not demand enough, even in the bare face of failure. Our fans have never hounded a manager out of the club for example. That’s not a bad thing, but there have been times over the last 4 decades that I’ve been a fan where there was a need for fans to at least express their disapproval with certain things.

    I have a sense that may be about to change judging by the tone and consistency of some of the postings expressed on Salut today.

    If we lose at Swansea then I think there will be a backlash against Bruce like we have rarely if ever witnessed. Even a lot of the “happy clappers” seem to be seeing the light at this time, as one contributor to the Blackcats list put it last night.

    Bruce is not only drinking in the last chance saloon, but his glass is virtually empty and the barman has the bell in his hand.

    Lose at Swansea and it’s the end of the road for both him and Black. Quinn should be doing something to put at least some distance between himself and his beleaguered manager, otherwise he will be feeling the sting of Ellis Short’s wrath as well as Bruce.

    It’s nearly time for a change, but even then it may be too late to deal with the striker crisis.

  8. Good post. I was also there and you are spot on mate.
    Craig Noone was the best attacking player on the pitch. Even after Greer was subbed and Brighton used to full backs in the centre of defence there was no change in the way you played. MON won’t be the answer I’m afraid. I suggest you get rid of Bruce quick and sign a manager like Hughes who does at least know how to shape and build a team. Please don’t go after Gus though.
    One question for you – why was Gardner wearing his pyjama top? It wasn’t that cold? I reckon he’s nesh. What do you reckon about his chances of surviving a winter on the Wear?
    PS you are an excellent writer. I’ll make a point of reading every post now.

  9. How many Millions does it actually cost to beat B&H Albion. from what I seen obviously Bruce hasnt spent enough. I predicted a defeat at half time and boy was I right. The evidence was that clear there was no need for CSI Brighton to be called, Its not as if we put up any resistance against the Skunks, so fatigue is not an excuse. Maybe a long flight down was the problem.

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